By Theresa Vamboi
The Sierra Leone NGO Summit 2019 which meets on November 21st, at the Country Lodge Hotel on Hill Station, will bring together heads of national and international NGOs, senior government officials and policymakers, and key stakeholders to converge on the challenges and emerging pressing issues affecting NGOs across Sierra Leone.
During the past two decades, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working in development and humanitarian assistance have increased their profiles both at local and national levels. NGOs have come to be recognized as important actors on the landscape of development, from the reconstruction efforts after the civil war to the Ebola emergency response in 2014 and mudslide disaster in 2017, to recent national campaigns on education, “stop rape” and gender-based violence.
NGOs tend to be best known for undertaking one or other of these two main forms of activity: the delivery of basic services to people in need, and organizing policy advocacy and public campaigns for change. At the same time, NGOs have also become active in a wide range of other more specialized roles such as emergency response, democracy building, conflict resolution, human rights work, cultural preservation, environmental activism, policy analysis, research and information provision.
Despite the advances in realising socioeconomic growth and human development, the civil society ecosystem in Sierra Leone is fragile, fragmented and works in isolation. Because of these limitations, many other policy issues are ignored because NGOs are divided along several lines. Though NGOs, both local and international contribute to society enormously, yet there has been no forum that brings together NGOs, policymakers and key stakeholders to discussion, in a frank manner, the problems they face in their operations and daily activities.
National and international development and humanitarian, democracy and human rights NGOs have over the years, become more involved in national development issues at both national and local levels. NGOs participation in Sierra Leone’s national development systems and democracy processes served as a valuable lesson for Sierra Leonean civil society organisations (CSOs) on the need to be better organized in terms of pushing the national agenda forward. Community groups, and national and international NGOs, from the outset, have been called upon to take on enormous tasks.
In the face of the enormous demands of these challenges, there is little opportunity to harvest and support the operational and financial stability and policy environment of NGOs across the country. Therefore, theme of this year’s Summit “Enhancing NGO Sustainability for Greater Impact”, will attract local, national and international development and humanitarian professionals, senior government officials, donor agencies and other key stakeholders to converge, network, and share ideas on crucial developmental issues affecting the country, and the most pressing challenges facing local, national and international NGOs operating across Sierra Leone.
The Summit will convene leaders and representatives from a variety of sectors, including competent speakers and resource persons, research fellows and academia in the third sector and chief executives of leading NGOs will deliver papers on the above and many other topical issues related to NGOs operating in Sierra Leone.
“This is the inaugural NGO Summit and it will create opportunities for growth and impact in the NGO community across the Sierra Leone and strengthen interaction with key stakeholders, especially government officials and other policymakers,” says Peter SaSellu, the Convenor of the Summit and President & Group CEO of the African Consulting Group.
Furthermore, the conversations at the Summit will focus on the key theme: Enhancing NGO Sustainability for Greater Impact. The event will also feature diverse high-level plenary sessions. The NGO Summit will create a stimulating environment for participants to engage with colleagues and partners from a variety of sectors to forge common solutions to pressing national development challenges. In pursuit of this, however, the Summit will focus on issues affecting the third sector in Sierra Leone, provide information on NGO networking and connectivity, address health and environmental hazards, examine areas of growth and development for donor-NGO relationships as well as provide the resources for NGO management.
“NGOs across Sierra Leone have long been looking for an opportunity to engage policymakers on emerging issues, challenges and trends that militate against the advancement and progress of their organisations,” says Christiana George, the Summit Coordinator. “Summit will also give way to the activation of the Sierra Leone NGO Council that was incorporated in 2016 to unite both local and international NGOs and look into their affairs, especially at the policy levels.”
In addition to networking, the one-day Summit will offer a series of workshop tracks specifically designed for attendees at different stages in their careers—including a CEO/Country Director track, and topical tracks for professional staff. The Summit will also feature an exhibit hall where attendees can see NGO and partner products and services, and new technologies and solutions that are changing the way we all work.